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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox


Favorite Candidate of the 1 Percent Calls NLRB Members ‘Union Stooges’

The latest lie from Willard (“Mitt”) Romney, who has taken to wearing jeans and posing as a member of the middle class:

“The National Labor Relations Board, now stacked with union stooges selected by the President, says to a free enterprise like Boeing, ‘You can’t build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a Right to Work state.’ That is simply un-American. It is political payback of the worst kind.”

Boeing makes most of its profits from government contracts, not “free enterprise.” Their South Carolina factory is already built. And the NLRB resolved the Boeing issue last month when Boeing and the Machinists union reached a contract extension and the NLRB dropped its legal action. Yesterday President Obama appointed Sharon Block, Terence Flynn, and Richard Griffin to the NLRB so that the board would have enough members to function despite Republican obstructionism. Flynn is a Republican.

A key role of the board is to supervise union elections and referee disputes between the nation’s private-sector employers and employees, in part by deciding cases brought to the agency. Without a quorum, the board can’t rule on cases or create major new regulations.

…Mr. Griffin is the general counsel for International Union of Operating Engineers and serves on the board of the lawyers coordinating committee for the AFL-CIO labor federation. In the early 1980s, he served as a counsel to NLRB board members.

Ms. Block is the Labor Department’s deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs. She was previously the senior labor and employment counsel for the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions, where she worked for the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Mr. Flynn, who was nominated by Mr. Obama in January 2011, is chief counsel to the NLRB’s lone Republican member, Brian Hayes.

UPDATE: Waiting for brewski to come along and tell us the correct term for NLRB members is “union thugs.”

UPDATE: Obama Fails On Minimum Wage Pledge. After the 2008 election, the President promised to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by the end of 2011 and index it to inflation, “to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage.” The minimum wage remains where it was when Bush left office, $7.25 an hour. If it had kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would now stand at around $10.

UPDATE: Boeing has announced the closure of its Wichita, Kansas factory complex after promising Kansas Republican members of Congress that it would build Air Force tankers there if awarded the contract. They got the contract, but reneged on their promise.


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The never ending story of a quack, thats gone to the dogs. (Because everything feels better after a muppets reference)


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And here I just ordered a new irony meter.

Avi Asher-Schapiro reports for Salon that the Egyptian military is using teargas made by an American company, CSI, based in Jamestown, Penn.

So, to sum up the irony: We invade a country in the middle east, Iraq, because they had nothing to do with a terrorist attack made, at least partly, because many people felt America is an imperial power, and has too much military influence. Since we know they had nothing to do with the attack, we have to add talk about “spreading democracy” into the mix. We don’t actually spread democracy, rather we bomb a couple hundred thousand Iraqis into the next world. This is totally not an example of the afore mentioned military influence or imperial behavior. Just sayin’.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A Must Read at the HuffPo: Why Military Spending Won’t Be Cut

Andrew Bacevich has a compelling piece at HuffPo, with the provocative title “Cow Most Sacred.”

He offers 4 points that explain why military spending won’t be cut.

  1. Institutional Self-Interest
  2. Strategic Inertia
  3. Cultural Dissonance
  4. Misremembered History

Items 3 and 4 are interdependent.

For instnace, the cultural dissonance is a debate about patriotism and whether or not patriots can oppose war:

[The Vietnam] War’s end left these matters disconcertingly unresolved.  President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to kill the draft in favor of an All-Volunteer Force, predicated on the notion that the country might be better served with a military that was no longer “us,” only complicated things further.  So, too, did the trends in American politics where bona fide war heroes (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain) routinely lost to opponents whose military credentials were non-existent or exceedingly slight (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), yet who demonstrated once in office a remarkable propensity for expending American blood (none belonging to members of their own families) in places like Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  It was all more than a little unseemly.

The misremembered history erases the ambiguity and nuance from WWII:

he passage of time has transformed World War II from a massive tragedy into a morality tale, one that casts opponents of intervention as blackguards.  Whether explicitly or implicitly, the debate over how the United States should respond to some ostensible threat — Iraq in 2003, Iran today — replays the debate finally ended by the events of December 7, 1941.  To express skepticism about the necessity and prudence of using military power is to invite the charge of being an appeaser or an isolationist.  Few politicians or individuals aspiring to power will risk the consequences of being tagged with that label. 

In this sense, American politics remains stuck in the 1930s — always discovering a new Hitler, always privileging Churchillian rhetoric — even though the circumstances in which we live today bear scant resemblance to that earlier time.  There was only one Hitler and he’s long dead.  As for Churchill, his achievements and legacy are far more mixed than his battalions of defenders are willing to acknowledge.  And if any one figure deserves particular credit for demolishing Hitler’s Reich and winning World War II, it’s Josef Stalin, a dictator as vile and murderous as Hitler himself. 

Read the whole thing.


U.S. Government Still Hiring Blackwater (Xe) Mercenaries


How can we miss Blackwater (Xe) if they won’t go away? Spencer Ackerman on Danger Room:

Never mind the dead civilians. Forget about the stolen guns. Get over the murder arrests, the fraud allegations, and the accusations of guards pumping themselves up with steroids and cocaine. Through a “joint venture,” the notorious private security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion, Danger Room has learned.

Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government. And this is despite a campaign pledge from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ban the company from federal contracts.

Apparently the State Department thought nobody would notice that Blackwater (Xe) used a cutout so that their company’s name never came up in the process of awarding the Worldwide Protective Services contract. The deal includes protection for U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.

Late last year, there were reports that Blackwater (Xe) is a key element in the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan. The U.S. and Pakistan governments, as well as Xe, deny the company operates in Pakistan.

The independent, non-profit journalists at ProPublica recently reported a milestone in the privatization of modern U.S. warfare. This year, more contractors than military personnel died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The Failure of the Western Way War

Hat Tip to the HuffPo for this powerful piece from Andrew Bacevich.

Reality, above all the two world wars of the last century, told a decidedly different story.  Armed conflict in the industrial age reached new heights of lethality and destructiveness.  Once begun, wars devoured everything, inflicting staggering material, psychological, and moral damage.  Pain vastly exceeded gain.  In that regard, the war of 1914-1918 became emblematic: even the winners ended up losers.  When fighting eventually stopped, the victors were left not to celebrate but to mourn.  As a consequence, well before Fukuyama penned his essay, faith in war’s problem-solving capacity had begun to erode.  As early as 1945, among several great powers — thanks to war, now great in name only — that faith disappeared altogether.

Among nations classified as liberal democracies, only two resisted this trend.  One was the United States, the sole major belligerent to emerge from the Second World War stronger, richer, and more confident.  The second was Israel, created as a direct consequence of the horrors unleashed by that cataclysm.  By the 1950s, both countries subscribed to this common conviction: national security (and, arguably, national survival) demanded unambiguous military superiority.  In the lexicon of American and Israeli politics, “peace” was a codeword.  The essential prerequisite for peace was for any and all adversaries, real or potential, to accept a condition of permanent inferiority.  In this regard, the two nations — not yet intimate allies — stood apart from the rest of the Western world.

And this passage:

Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage.  Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications.  No matter how badly battered and beaten, the “terrorists” (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren’t intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more.

And this one:

If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it’s this: victory is a chimera.  Counting on today’s enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky. [snip]

By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war.  First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted.  High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning — at least as a Rabin or Schwarzkopf would have understood that term.  They sought instead to not lose.  In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success. 

And this devastating conclusion:

Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”  Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What’s the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn’t actually work?  

In his books, Bacevich has strongly condemned the bipartisan madness of American politics unquestioned belief in our military greatness.  The cost of war has vastly outstripped any possible rewards of victory.  The real battles are not fought with guns and bombs and tanks; they are fought with words and are fought not on fields or city streets but in hearts and minds.  That is a battle we can win but we have to show up and thus far we haven’t.


NSA Warrantless Surveillance Whistleblower Faces Possible 20 Year Prison Sentence

AFP via Raw Story:

A former senior executive of the top secret National Security Agency (NSA) who allegedly leaked classified information to a newspaper reporter via email has been indicted on multiple charges, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Thomas Drake, 52, was charged in a 10-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Maryland, the department said in a statement.

…He faces one charge of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and four charges of making false statements, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Drake apparently was a source for a series of articles by Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman, outlining violations of privacy, waste and mismanagement in the NSA’s $1.2 billion “Trailblazer” program. Government contractors ran up the costs, while ignoring the law.

Glenn Greenwald comments on the extreme hypocrisy of the Obama administration:

It’s true that leaking classified information is a crime. That’s what makes whistleblowers like Drake so courageous. That’s why Daniel Ellsberg — who literally risked his liberty in an effort to help end the Vietnam War — is one of the 20th Century’s genuine American heroes. And if political-related crimes were punished equally, one could accept whistle-blower prosecutions even while questioning the motives behind them and the priorities they reflect. But that’s not the situation that prevails.

Instead, here you have the Obama DOJ in all its glory: no prosecutions (but rather full-scale immunity extended) for war crimes, torture, and illegal spying. For those crimes, we must Look Forward, Not Backward. But for those poor individuals who courageously blow the whistle on oozing corruption, waste and illegal surveillance by the omnipotent public-private Surveillance State: the full weight of the “justice system” comes crashing down upon them with threats of many years in prison.

Meanwhile, it appears that the DOJ is wrapping up the criminal investigation into the 2005 destruction of CIA torture tapes. How much you want to bet that NO ONE is going to be prosecuted for torturing detainees and then destroying the evidence?

Worst of all, how are we going to find out about crimes committed in secret by our government if talking to the news media is regarded as a worse crime than torture?


30 Republican Senators Sanction KBR Gang Rape

“Court rules that KBR employee’s gang rape wasn’t a personal injury ‘arising in the workplace.’

Franken’s “No Arbitration for Gang Rape” amendment was passed 68-30. The thirty Republican Senators who voted against the amendment bear an uncanny resemblance to one another.

How much more evidence do we need that the Republican Party has become fundamentally bad.

I suppose no one should be surprised anymore by this sort of hypocrisy.  What does it say about Republican voters, that they will vote for someone who is against taxpayer funded abortions and for taxpayer funded gang rape?

In case anyone is unaware, KBR employees gang raped a 19-year-old colleague then they imprisoned her for complaining.

By their actions, The Republicans have sent a clear message endorsing gang rape by American contractors in Iraq and anywhere.

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In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her Halliburton/KBR co-workers while working in Iraq and locked in a shipping container for over a day to prevent her from reporting her attack. The rape occurred outside of U.S. criminal jurisdiction, but to add serious insult to serious injury she was not allowed to sue KBR because her employment contract said that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration–a process that overwhelmingly favors corporations.

Lots more of the facts here.

Meet the girl who got gang raped by KBR employees, imprisoned, fired, and told to shut up. And meet the Democrat who fights for her, and all woman.

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Rep. Boehner’s Corporate Death Penalty Act

While the right-wing partisans were congratulating themselves for attaching Rep. John Boehner’s so-called “Defund ACORN Act” as Title VI of H.R. 3221 (a student aid bill), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) turned the tables on them.

Blackwater (Xe) mercenaries
Blackwater (Xe) mercenaries

In a transparent attempt to skirt the Constitutional prohibition on bills of attainder, Boehner’s anti-ACORN bill contains broad language cutting off federal funds to: “Any organization that has filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency.”

Ryan Grim on HuffPo:

On Friday, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) inserted into the “legislative history” language spelling out that including all fraudulent organizations was, in fact, the intent of the Congress.

Meanwhile, he has been asking citizens to suggest specific companies which would be targeted by the anti-fraud language and provide evidence for the claim. The list has grown several pages long. The names of those organizations will be submitted into the congressional record next week.

Excerpt from Rep. Grayson’s addendum (emphasis added):

The purpose of this bill is to cleanse federal contracting and grant-making, completely and permanently. The purpose is to put an end to the invidious practice of rewarding those who steal taxpayer money by giving them more taxpayer money. The bill imposes, and is intended to impose, a corporate death penalty on contractors who fall within the scope of its prohibitions. This is remedial legislation. The primary intention is not merely to penalize such organization, since other laws perform that function. Rather, the intention is to protect the Government and the taxpayers from losses in the future, and to deter misconduct on the part of federal fund recipients. The intention of deterrence, in particular, requires that these prohibitions be construed broadly, and enforced strictly.

If Boehner’s bill becomes law, it would enforce a “corporate death penalty” on every federal contractor in the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database. Bye-bye, Blackwater (Xe) and a long list of crooked contractors who made off with billions of our dollars during the Bush administration.


Trapped Within the National Security State

Gary Hart has a piece up at his place – Matters of Principle – in which he quotes a provocative statement:

. . . the national security state has become a kind of powerful prison with the president as warden. He has authority over it, but he cannot escape it.

The argument Hart offers here is similar to the argument Andrew Bacevich has made in several places – that we’ve built a national security state which in addition to consuming vast resources has become a trap for American politics. We have this huge and expensive military and it seems a waste to let it lay around unused. Read the rest of this entry »


The Military Budget

Glen’s post about the American empire seems to cross with the ataxia argument I made earlier. Any suggestion that our military even tighten the belt is generally met by screams of “traitor” by the general public. “We need our military” they cry, “the world is dangerous” they yell.

Read the rest of this entry »


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